MICHIGAN CHARITY POKER LAWS

By Bob Ciaffone (speaking for Michigan’s poker players).

Michigan has hundreds of thousands of poker players. We would like to give some input to the present adversarial situation created by the attempt by the Michigan Gaming Control Board to eliminate the use of poker suppliers, who now run many legal cardrooms for hosting charity poker in Michigan. As our state’s charity gaming law prescribes, the poker profits are split evenly between the charity and the supplier. The charities appreciate this division of profit because they receive far more income than if they had to run poker events all by themselves.

We poker players appreciate the value of a centralized location where many local charities can run their games. We have a wider choice of games and stakes, are able to play in relative safety, enjoy getting together with our poker buddies, and get dealers and supervisors who are far better than would be available if each charity ran its own fundraiser. We much prefer charity poker to be a public market rather than a corner store.

There are far fewer home games when there is a legal charity cardroom in a locality. The home games are not legal––and for a good reason. Many of them rake the game as if they were a casino. But unlike a casino, we card players do not always collect when we win, there is much less protection against cheating, the danger of being robbed is quite serious, and people are sometimes shot and killed when there is a robbery. When Flint’s biggest charity poker room (the Poker Palace) was shut down in October of this year, it took less than a week for home games to sprout up like mushrooms.

Not everyone is pleased with charity poker rooms. The Detroit casinos have been looking to put the charity poker rooms out of business for the last ten years, and have backed much legislation that would do this, so far unsuccessfully. No matter that poker represents only about one percent of casino revenue; anything that adversely affects their bottom line is their enemy. Now the casinos have the support of the Michigan Gaming Control Board and Governor Snyder, who seem unaware that falling casino revenues are not the fault of charity gaming, and are willing to throw Michigan charity gamers under the bus to reverse this tax downtrend.

The governor’s war against charity gaming will be a political issue in the 2014 election if this attempt to drive the poker suppliers out of business is not stopped. The alliance between the casinos and the governor is trying to turn back the clock to before the poker boom. Not all the unforeseen consequences to a piece of legislation are bad; poker suppliers are helpful. You can safely bet that Michigan’s poker players will be voting to support the charity gamers.

(Bob Ciaffone of Saginaw is the author of five poker books on strategy and Roberts Rules of Poker, which is the most widely used set of poker rules in the world.)